After six Aaron Gunner novels and two novels featuring amateur detective Dottie Loudermilk, Gar Anthony Haywood abandoned detective stories and wrote a crime novel in which the friendship of three friends is severely tested.
In Cemetery Road, the central character and narrator, Errol “Handy” White, reflecting on his situation, remembers that his grandfather “used to say that there were many paths a man could take during his time on earth, but sooner or later, they all brought him down the same one: cemetery road. There was no running from it, there was no hiding from it”
He earned the nickname Handy because of his skill repairing mechanical and electrical devices. He takes things apart and puts them back together for exercise and “for the sake of learning the answer to a single, unrelenting question: Why?” Handy is not above lying for what he believes is a good cause, but sometimes knows his lying is self-serving. At times selfish, he still tries to be a good friend and father.
After an absence of 26 years, Handy returns to Los Angeles from his home in St. Paul Minnesota to attend the funeral his boyhood friend R. J. (Robert James) Burrow, who was allegedly killed in a drug deal gone bad.
Back in his repair shop in St. Paul, Handy is haunted by R. J.’s death. He doesn’t accept the official explanation, and fears that who ever killed R. J. might be coming after him because of a robbery he, R. J., and their friend O’Neal Holden committed 26 years ago. The robbery was his idea and it’s his fault that R. J. is dead. He convinces himself that he wants justice for R. J.
The fear that he is next on the killer’s list forces him to return to Los Angeles to search for the truth of what really happened. During his search, he learns that after R. J. was paroled from prison, he got married and has a daughter who works as a PI in Seattle, and, Handy, thinks she might help him find out who killed R. J. and why.
O’Neal, who is mayor of Bellwood, a small town not far from Los Angeles, does not believe that they are in danger and thinks Handy is being paranoid. Nevertheless, he agrees to use his contacts to help Handy.
Cemetery Road is a thoughtful novel. The rather complex plot relates what is happening in the present to what happened in the past. The back and forth from the present to the past and back again doesn’t slow the pace, which changes from fast-paced action to the slow working of Handy’s thoughts in which he takes apart his past life and views things from a different perspective. Cemetery Road has a few twists and turns, a red herring, and a sure fire surprise ending.